Stoppage Time – International Football Blog

World: Classic rivalries sign off the international year

Posted in International Football by peterbein on November 18, 2010
Spain v Portugal

Portugal and Spain met again on Wednesday in a repeat of their 2010 FIFA World Cup Round of 16 match

Three of the great football rivalries finished off what has been an eventful year in international football. Spain, FIFA World Cup winners in 2010, had a short trip next door to Portugal, the team they knocked out of the world’s greatest football tournament at the Round of 16 stage and the country with whom they aspire to host the 2018 FIFA World Cup. England, another potential host of the 2018 tournament, wanted to keep up their unbeaten record since South Africa with a home victory against a France side crossing the English Channel with a renewed confidence under new coach Laurent Blanc. The biggest game of them all took place in the unfamiliar surroundings of Doha with South American giants Argentina and Brazil clashing in the capital of Qatar in an exhibition match which the hosts hope showed off their credentials for hosting the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

Lionel Messi

Lionel Messi scored the winner for Argentina

If truth be told the game between South America’s two biggest football nations failed to live up to expectations. Perhaps the lack of the usual passion from the stands whenever these two great teams meet had something to do with the performances of both teams being somewhat lacklustre, or maybe it was something to do with the players not wishing to overexert themselves just a few days before they go back to their club sides in order to resume domestic league action. In any case chances were few and far between but there was one outstanding highlight which proved to be the difference between the teams. With the game having entered second half stoppage time Lionel Messi picked up the ball on the halfway line and performed a give and go with substitute Ezequiel Lavezzi. He promptly fed Messi with a return ball with which the Barcelona star sped towards the Brazil penalty area and unleashed a shot from the edge of the area. The ball squeezed in past goalkeeper Victor and gave Argentina their first win over Brazil since 2005.

In the two all-European affairs there were plenty of goals and lots of experimentation. All of the four teams involved had their fair share of new caps or young players been given a chance to prove their worth in the last friendly matches of the year. At Wembley Stadium the French national team looked a class apart from their English hosts for much of the game and when Karim Benzema and Mathieu Valbuena had given Les Bleus a 2-0 lead the writing was on the wall for the Three Lions. Substitute Peter Crouch did come on to restore some pride as he scored a late consolation goal but Laurent Blanc’s French side did him proud as he tries to restore former glories. England coach Fabio Capello, on the other hand, is increasingly coming under pressure as his stock seems to fall with each inadequate England performance.

For the European and World champion Spanish team there was a shock in store as old foes Portugal, who the Spanish knocked out of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, gained some revenge with a 4-0 thrashing of their Iberian neighbours. Carlos Martins gave the hosts the lead right on the brink of half-time and the Portuguese carried on where they left off early in the second with Helder Postiga scoring twice in the 49th and 68th minutes. A late stoppage time goal from Hugo Almeida sealed the deal for Portugal and allowed them to accept the cheers of the home crowd who have not had a lot to shout about in recent months. For the Spanish the friendly result was merely a blip but at least they have played their part in what has been an exciting year in international football.

South America: Uruguay league kicks-off; Leagues Review (+video)

Posted in South America Football by peterbein on August 23, 2010

Stoppage Time – International Football Blog looks at the latest South American league news:

There wasn’t a full programme of matches this weekend in Uruguay but the ball got rolling nonetheless with three teams getting off the mark with a win while the two other matches played at the weekend finished in stalemates. Liverpool had the biggest win of the weekend over Rampla Juniors and had to come from behind at home in order to gain the victory. After Nestor Moiraghi had given Juniors the lead just six minutes into the second half the home side managed to score three times in the space of five minutes thanks to strikes from Hernán Figueredo (70 minutes), Diego Vera (73) and Juan Álvez (75). Central Español, who narrowly avoided relegation last season, also started with a win with Federico Rodriquez’s 65th minute goal being the difference against newly-promoted Bella Vista. There was better luck for another promoted team after El Tanque Sisley, last season’s Segunda División champions, also got the better of their opening day opponents Racing Club de Montevideo by a goal to nil with Maximiliano Callorda scoring the only goal of the game. The two other games saw C.A. Fénix draw 1-1 at home to Tacuarembó and a goalless affair between Cerro and Danubio. To complete the opening round two matches are played on Wednesday with River Plate v Defensor and giants Nacional facing off against Montevideo Wanderers who also provide the opposition for defending champions Peñarol in their opening match on Saturday.

Three games into the new Argentina Apertura season sees contrasting fortunes for the big two of the league. River Plate are one of two teams (along with Vélez Sársfield) with a 100% record after los Millionarios defeated Independiente at home by three goals to two. An eventful opening twenty minutes saw a double from River’s Rogelio Funes Mori sandwich a lone strike from the visitors’ Andrés Silvera. Paulo Ferrari extended the lead for River after just 25 minutes but the crowd would have to wait until the final minute of the game before Independiente were to pull one back to provide the game with a nervous finish. River held out to win 3-2 and are in a great position to fight head-on the battle against relegation (based on the three year points average). Their arch-rivals Boca Juniors have had no such luck in the Apertura thus far going down to the second defeat in three games, the latest setback coming against newly-promoted All Boys who scored both their goals in a 2-0 victory in the first half which sends Boca down to 19th place in the table and increases the pressure on new coach Claudio Borghi. Joint leaders Vélez Sársfield had to wait until the last twenty minutes to secure their 2-0 win over last season’s Clausura champions Argentinos Juniors. Goals from Leandro Somoza (70 mins) and Santiago Silva (76) secured the perfect record for Vélez who are hoping to win a national title for the first time since the Clausura 2009 tournament.


The Brasileiro still continues to be tight between the front runners with two points separating league leaders Fluminense (15 games, 33 points) from Corinthians. Fluminense took the lead in an all-Rio de Janeiro match-up with rivals Vasco da Gama thanks to an early 6th minute strike from Gum but Vasco turned the match around with strikes from Éder Luís (37 minutes) and Fagner (48) before parity was restored through Júlio César on the hour mark to give Fluminense a share of the points. There was another local derby when Corinthians got the better of São Paulo FC by three goals to nil with Elias scoring twice in the first half before Jucilei sealed the deal on 70 minutes to narrow the gap at the top. This weekend sees cross-city rivalries take centre stage for both title chasers as Fluminense play Palmeiras at home whilst Corinthians travel to Rio in order to play Vasco da Gama.


In Chile’s Primera División league leaders and record champions Colo Colo (21 games, 47 points) had Matias Quiroga to thank for keeping the club at the top of the table by scoring the only goal in their 1-0 victory over Unión Española. Nearest challengers Universidad Católica remain just a single point behind Colo Colo following their 4-1 destruction of bottom club San Luis whilst third place Universidad de Chile managed to put a first minute goal behind them and come back to beat Huachipato by three goals to one to maintain a five gap between themselves and the leaders but Universidad de Chile have played one game less than the top two and can get back in the title race should they win their game in hand.


In Colombia Santa Fe (6 games, 16 points) and Tolima are the only two unbeaten teams after six matches in this year’s edition of the Copa Mustang. Mario González struck just before the hour mark to give league leaders Santa Fe a slender 1-0 win over Pereira FC while Tolima, two points behind the leaders, kept up the pace with a 3-1 victory over Chicó FC. In Venezuela two teams have 100% records after three games in the new Primera División season with Deportivo Táchira and Caracas FC leading the way although Real Esppor club have the chance to join these teams on this statistic as they have played only two games so far. Deportivo Táchira and Caracas FC gained their latest victories against Trujillanos FC (3-1) and Estudiantes de Merida (1-0) respectively.

FIFA World Cup Review – South America

Posted in International Football, South America Football by peterbein on July 15, 2010
Diego Forlán

Diego Forlán won the Golden Ball award after his performances in the World Cup

Stoppage Time – International Football Blog continues its continental journey to review the performances of those teams involved in the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. In this blog we review the teams from South America.

During the tournament the South American countries impressed everybody with their attacking play and their winning results. All of the five countries from this particular continent managed to progress to the round of sixteen with four of those getting through to the last eight. The luck started to run out in the quarter-finals with three out of four eliminated leaving surprise package Uruguay to fly the flag in their semi-final against the Netherlands.

Uruguay began the tournament with two wins in three matches in Group A, wins over South Africa and Mexico followed their opening day bore draw with France. They did have one of the ‘easier’ draws (a term I use loosely) in the round of sixteen when they faced off against South Korea who gave Las Charrúas a real scare before the Uruguayans eventually got through with a 2-1 victory thanks to a double strike from Luis Suárez. In the Africa review we highlighted the amazing catalogue of incidents that occurred in the quarter-final against Ghana in what was arguably the match of the tournament. After Uruguay won the quarter-final penalty shoot-out by four goals to two they faced the Netherlands in the semi-finals. Diego Forlán, who would go on to win the Golden Ball award for being voted the tournament’s best player, equalized for Uruguay late in the first half after Giovanni Van Bronckhorst had given the Dutch an early lead with, perhaps, the goal of the tournament. Sadly for Uruguay Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben scored two quick goals to give Holland a good enough cushion to protect late in the game. That was just as well seeing as Maxi Pereira scored a consolation for Uruguay deep into stoppage time to reduce the arrears but ultimately the Dutch came through 3-2 winners. Uruguay lost by the same scoreline to Germany in the 3rd/4th Place Play-Off match but the competition was already a success for the country who finished fourth for the third time in the nation’s history.

For the other South American nations things looked very promising at the beginning with Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay finishing, along with Uruguay, top of their respective groups whilst Chile finished in second place in Group H behind eventual World Cup winners Spain. After the conclusion of the group stage it was clear that one of the continent’s teams would soon be going home when Brazil played against Chile. Juan, Luis Fabiano and Robinho secured an easy 3-0 win against Chile in what was, for the most part, a comfortable game for the five time world champions. To Chile’s credit they still attempted to attack after they conceded the third goal on the hour mark but that was as good as it got for La Roja. Argentina won all three games in Group B against Nigeria, South Korea and Greece whilst Paraguay were made to work for their progression as they eventually came top in the group involving Italy, New Zealand and Slovakia which was the tightest group of the lot.

In the round of sixteen Argentina’s win over Mexico, Paraguay’s over Japan (albeit via a penalty shoot-out), Uruguay’s over South Korea and Brazil’s over Chile had many pundits wondering whether this was going to be South America’s year with half of the quarter-finalists hailing from that continent. Sadly, for those of a Latin American persuasion, the Netherlands’ come-from-behind victory over Brazil signalled the beginning of the end for any perceived dominance. Wesley Sneijder was the inspiration for the Dutch as they got over the early setback of Brazil’s tenth minute goal to come back and win by two goals to one. Uruguay stemmed the tide with their win over Ghana but Paraguay and Argentina were to sample the taste of defeat for the first and only time in the competition going down to Spain and Germany respectively in two amazing quarter-final match-ups. The Paraguayans winning and then conceding a penalty in their contentious game against Spain in a game which saw all penalties saved and a late David Villa winner dispelling of the challenge from Paraguay who, by some way of consolation, had their best ever tournament whilst Argentina were hammered by a fantastic Germany performance. Goals from Miroslav Klose (2), Thomas Müller and Arne Friedrich ensured that Diego Maradona wouldn’t be joining the ranks of Franz Beckenbauer and Mario Zagallo as one of a unique club of people to have won the FIFA World Cup as a player and a coach.

One can say that the only conclusion for the South Americans is that their chances of winning the next tournament, to be played in 2014, will be significantly greater due to its being held in Brazil. Of course the host nation will want to secure a record-extending sixth title in front of their home fans but history shows that they can be beaten on home turf with Uruguay securing the title over Brazil in the 1950 tournament. Nonetheless, in the first tournament to be played in South America since Argentina won on home soil in 1978, the Brazilians have pledged to learn the lessons of the South Africans and will hope to put on as colourful a tournament as we have just experienced in the last month.

FIFA: Round of 16 Review

Posted in International Football by peterbein on June 29, 2010
Germany v England

Thomas Müller and Lukas Podolski celebrate Germany's 4-1 win over England

So the Round of Sixteen is completed in the FIFA World Cup with eight teams having to face up to the stark reality of flying back home to face the critics whilst eight teams look forward to the quarter-final stage in what remains a fascinating tournament. South America has performed well with the possibility of all four semi-finalists hailing from that particular continent should they overcome their respective opponents in the last eight. However there are three European teams and the sole African representative remaining who would like to deprive the Latin Americans of complete domination. Stoppage Time – International Football Blog looks back at the Round of Sixteen and provides the quarter-final draw.

The knock-out stages began last Saturday with Uruguay playing against South Korea who appeared to be Asia’s best chance of a last eight representative. Sadly for the Koreans it only took eight minutes to fall behind as Luis Suárez gave Uruguay the lead and, thus, added to the goal he scored against Mexico in his team’s final group game. The Koreans though didn’t give up and were back on level terms on 68 minutes when Lee Chung-Yong headed the equalizer from a free-kick and set up a fascinating climax to the contest. With ten minutes remaining it was to be Luis Suárez again who would settle the game in Uruguay’s favour showing his class with a beautifully curled shot into the top right corner of the net. The second game on Saturday saw Ghana create history as they defeated the United States to put themselves into a World Cup quarter-final for the first time. Kevin-Prince Boateng gave the Black Stars the lead after just five minutes after his run from the halfway line saw him steer the ball hard and low into the net past Tim Howard. The Americans restored parity in the second half when Landon Donovan shot home from the penalty spot after Clint Dempsey had been brought down by Jonathan Mensah in the box. It was a classic game of two halves which finished 1-1 and, thus, needed thirty minutes of extra-time. Just three minutes had passed when Asamoah Gyan continued his wonderful tournament by scoring an excellent goal from distance and, with no further scoring in the game, ensured that Africa had its sole representative progress into the last eight of the competition.

Sunday saw two potential classic matches on paper turn out to be pretty one-sided affairs. There was much controversy in the Germany versus England match (it wouldn’t be Germany v England otherwise) when a Frank Lampard shot hit the underside of the bar and came down at least a metre over the line but the linesman didn’t see it and denied England an equalizing goal which would’ve tied the game at two-all. Before then Miroslav Klose and Lukas Podolski had given the Nationalmannschaft a two-goal lead before Matthew Upson halved the deficit by getting on the end of a Steven Gerrard cross. Sadly for England that was as good as it got as even the most die-hard fan of the Three Lions would admit that they were outclassed by a Germany team whose splendid counter-attacking play created two goals for young starlet Thomas Müller in the final quarter of the match to give Germany a convincing 4-1 win. Later that evening any ideas that Mexico had to get revenge on Argentina for knocking them out of the 2006 tournament were soon dispelled in equally controversial circumstances. Carlos Tévez was in an offside position upon giving Argentina the lead on 26 minutes but the linesman, once again, failed to spot the indiscretion and the Mexico players were furious. Gonzalo Higuaín doubled the lead on 33 minutes and the Albiceleste sealed the win in the second half when Tévez scored his second seven minutes after the break. Javier Hernández did score a consloation for El Tri but Diego Maradona’s men came through any potential fightback to claim a place in the next round.

Carlos Tevez

Carlos Tevez scored twice for Argentina in their 3-1 win over Mexico

Monday night saw two of the tournament favourites, Brazil and the Netherlands, continue their good progress. The Netherlands continue to win despite playing football which is far from what we expect from the pioneers of Voetbal Totaal. Arjen Robben gave the Oranje the lead thanks to a trademark left-foot shot from the edge of the penalty box and one was expecting the Dutch to go on and stroll the game from there. However they were made to fight for their victory which they finally sealed in the 84th minute when Dirk Kuijt squared the ball to Wesley Sneijder in the box to make it 2-0. Up until then the Slovakians had plenty of chances which were spurned and, as a result, they would rue their profligacy in front of goal especially as they halved the deficit with the final kick of the game, a penalty from Robert Vittek after Martin Jakubko was brought down in the box. There was no time after the kick to continue and the Dutch went through to the next round with what was ultimately a slender 2-1 victory. Brazil made much easier work of their all-South American encounter with Chile, a team who finished just a solitary point behind them in World Cup qualifying. Two goals in three minutes at the end of the first half from Juan and Luís Fabiano were complimented by a beautiful finish from Robinho on the hour mark to give the Seleção an easy 3-0 win over a disappointing Chile team who did, to their credit, try to play some direct football once they conceded the third, no doubt believing that they had nothing to lose from such an approach. Dunga’s men are looking ominously good but many will feel that their quarter-final with the Netherlands will be their first real test of the tournament. A fascinating encounter awaits.

The final two matches in the Round of Sixteen were played today and, once again, there was joy for the South Americans but only after Paraguay had been taken all the way to a penalty shoot-out by a Japan team who were unfortunate to have to lose in such a manner. The only missed penalty in the shoot-out was by Japan’s Yūichi Komano whose spot-kick hit the crossbar and went over. Because Paraguay had the first kick in the shoot-out their final goal from Óscar Cardozo meant that a fifth kick for Japan was unnecessary and La Albirroja progressed to the quarter-finals by the skin of their teeth. To finish the round we had an Iberian derby between Spain and Portugal which looked like a mouth-watering match on paper but which, sadly, failed to live up to expectations. Cristiano Ronaldo, just like Wayne Rooney and Franck Ribéry, failed to shine during this tournament and he was amongst the most disappointed of the Portuguese side after the final whistle blew after their 1-0 defeat probably because he knew that he hadn’t done his talent any justice. The goal which won an otherwise poor game came in the 63rd minute from David Villa, whose initial shot at keeper Eduardo was parried back to his feet and then forced home going in off the bar at the second attempt. This meant that Villa joins Gonzalo Higuaín and Robert Vittek on four goals each and one wouldn’t bet against him adding to that total in Spain’s quarter-final match against Paraguay on Saturday.


02.07.2010 Netherlands v Brazil (Port Elizabeth)

02.07.2010 Uruguay v Ghana (Johannesburg)

03.07.2010 Argentina v Germany (Cape Town)

03.07.2010 Paraguay v Spain (Johannesburg)

FIFA: Groups G and H Review

Posted in International Football by peterbein on June 25, 2010

Brazil coach Dunga has plenty to smile about after his team topped Group H unbeaten

Figures given are as follows: Games Played/Points Scored:


The Seleção have, as expected, topped the group after Dunga’s men saw off a spirited show from unknown quantity North Korea in the opening group match before going on to beat Ivory Coast and gain a point in an uninspiring ninety minutes of football against Portugal. The Portuguese were held by the Ivorians to a goalless draw in their first match but were able to rout the North Koreans by seven goals before getting the point they needed against the five-time world champions in their final match. The North Koreans provided one of the tournament’s most emotional moments when Jong Tae Se cried his eyes out during the national anthem ahead of the game against Brazil and gave real football fans hope that there are still real footballers out there who feel the emotion about wearing their favourite football shirt. Sadly this emotion couldn’t be transferred into points as the brave North Koreans ended up without any points after three games. As for the Ivorians they will hope for a kinder draw should they qualify for the next competition as they have been dealt the Group of Death in the last two tournaments which has hindered their ability to progress to the knock-out stages.


After a poor start to the tournament Vicente del Bosque’s Spain team progressed to the next stage as group winners thanks mainly to the efforts of David Villa who has scored all but one of La Roja‘s goals so far. Spain were shocked on the first matchday losing 1-0 to Switzerland which makes it all the more surprising that Ottmar Hitzfeld’s men never made it to the knock-out stage after such a promising opening to their campaign. Spain went on to win both their next two matches against Honduras (2-0) and Chile (2-1) with Villa scoring three of the goals; only Andres Iniesta got on the score sheet when he settled the latter game in Spain’s favour by scoring the second goal. Chile played some good football in the tournament but will face the toughest test in the Round of 16 when they play against South American rivals Brazil in Johannesburg on Monday whilst the Derby of Iberia will feature in Cape Town on Tuesday when European champions Spain face neighbours Portugal in a much anticipated game.

David Villa

David Villa has been the main man for Spain in their FIFA World Cup campaign

FIFA: South Americans cruise to victory; Italy held by New Zealand

Posted in International Football by peterbein on June 20, 2010
Shane Smeltz

Shane Smeltz gave New Zealand the lead in their 1-1 draw against world champions Italy

The FIFA World Cup doesn’t fail to surprise with New Zealand gaining another point in the competition at the expense of world champions Italy who are failing to find their form. This draw means that Paraguay are top of Group F having beaten Slovakia 2-0 earlier in the day. In the final match of the day Brazil ensured that a sense of normality remained at the tournament with a 3-1 victory over the Ivory Coast to remain top of Group G although the game was marred by a controversial red card shown to Kaká.

With one point already in the bank after a dramatic last-gasp equalizer in their opening match against Slovakia, New Zealand were hoping not to be on the receiving end of a heavy defeat to world champions Italy. The Azzurri had to play Federico Marchetti in goal in place of the injured Gianluigi Buffon but were otherwise unchanged from the team that scraped a 1-1 draw against Paraguay. Sadly for the Italians they would have to come from behind again as an early New Zealand free-kick found Shane Smeltz, the Australian A-League’s top scorer in the last two seasons, unmarked in the box although there was a heavy suspicion of offside about the goal. Alas, for Italy, the linesman kept his flag down and the All Whites were ahead but not for long. Ricardo Montolivo had already come close to scoring when his long-range effort hit a post before Daniele de Rossi, who scored the equalizer for Italy in their first game, was brought down in the box after Tommy Smith had pulled his shirt. Vincenzo Iaquinta was at hand to convert the penalty in the 28th minute and restore parity for Italy.

The second half would see a flurry of chances from Italy with New Zealand’s defence resisting wave after wave of attack from the defending World Cup holders. Perhaps the best chance of the second half, though, fell New Zealand’s way when substitute Chris Wood evaded the attention of Fabio Cannavaro and shot narrowly wide of the post with just three minutes remaining. Had that have gone in it would’ve set-up one of the great World Cup shocks but, nevertheless, the All Whites got what they deserved from this game even though they were under pressure for significant periods of the game.

Earlier in the afternoon a rather less exciting game was decided in favour of Paraguay who were relatively untroubled from a Slovakia side who didn’t have enough creativity to break down the solid defence from Gerardo Martino’s men. After a pretty dire opening twenty-five minutes of the game Enrique Vera scored the opening goal for Paraguay as he received a pass just inside the penalty box and shot with the outside of his right foot to give La Albirroja the lead. If anybody expected the Slovakians to wake up from their slumber after the goal then they were to be disappointed as the Eastern Europeans had no answer to Paraguay’s superior play. The only surprise was that it took until five minutes before time until Paraguay sealed the deal through a Cristian Riveros power driver from the edge of the box after an Aureliano Torres free-kick had eventually worked its way to him. With two games played in Group F it is Paraguay who lead the way with four points, followed by Italy and New Zealand on two and Slovakia prop up the rest with one point. The final games in the group take place at 16:00 local time on Thursday with Paraguay winning the group should they overcome New Zealand and Italy hoping to secure at least second place with a win over Slovakia.

Luis Fabiano

Luis Fabiano was on target twice in Brazil's 3-1 win over Ivory Coast

In the final game played on Sunday Brazil impressed in a 3-1 victory over Sven-Göran Eriksson’s Ivory Coast to stay top of the group with a perfect six points from six. Luís Fabiano found his scoring boots in the 25th minute when put through by Kaká to fire the ball into the roof of the net and Dunga’s troops never looked like losing it from there. Just five minutes into the second half and Brazil had doubled their lead although there was a suspicion of handball in the build-up to Luís Fabiano’s second goal in which he took on three defenders before firing the ball home from twelve yards out. Brazil were coasting it thirteen minutes later as Kaká went down the left hand side and pulled the ball back to Elano who caught the Ivorian defence napping and slipped it past the keeper from close range. Didier Drogba did pull one back for the Ivory Coast on 79 minutes when converting a right-sided cross from Yaya Touré with his head to bring an ounce of respectability back to the score.

Sadly the match began to get tetchy and, with two minutes of normal time to play, Kaká was the victim of the most ridiculous refereeing decision of the tournament so far when he was adjudged to have hit Abdel-Kader Keïta in the face although they merely touched shoulders at worst. Keïta went down holding his face and the referee showed the red card to the Brazilian star who could face anything from a 1-4 match ban depending on the outcome of a FIFA enquiry into the incident. Thankfully there were no further flashpoints after that but Dunga’s night would’ve been soured somewhat after the incident. Nonetheless Brazil should be happy with their night’s work and they will end the group phase of the competition on Friday with their match against Portugal in Durban.

FIFA: World Cup Guide – Part Two


Brazil celebrate winning their fifth World Cup in 2002.

In the second part of Stoppage Time’s build-up to the FIFA World Cup, which kicks off on Friday June 11th, we profile the ten teams who have qualified from South America, Asia, and Oceania (note – FIFA rankings correct from May 26th):

BRAZIL – Winners of South America Group; FIFA World Ranking = 1

The most successful country in FIFA World Cup history kept up their amazing record of having qualified for every single World Cup tournament, the only nation to have achieved this feat. Dunga’s side won their qualification group by a point from nearest challengers Chile and Paraguay. Strongly fancied to add to their tally of five World Cup wins, the last of whch saw Brazil lift the trophy in Japan/South Korea in 2002. Face tough group matches against Ivory Coast and Portugal but should have enough to qualify and go far in the tournament.

Coach:  Dunga

Star Player: Kaka

CHILE – 2nd in South America Group; FIFA World Ranking = 18

The Chileans have impressed under the stewardship of Argentinian coach Marcelo Bielsa. Took Brazil all the way in World Cup qualifying but still managed to finish a very respectable second place. La Roja are favoured to progress to the Round of 16 stage from their group which contains favourites Spain, Switzerland and underdogs Honduras.

Coach: Marcelo Bielsa

Star Player: Humberto Suazo

PARAGUAY – 3rd in South America Group; FIFA World Ranking = 31

Paraguay surprised a few people with their final position finishing third only on goal difference behind Chile but they would’ve finished top of the ten nation group had they not lost to Colombia at home on the final matchday of qualifying . Nonetheless Paraguay could spring a surprise or two in South Africa but will be fighting it out for second in their group behind Italy. Can they get the points they need against New Zealand and Slovakia to go through to the knockout stage?

Coach: Gerardo Martino

Star Player: Roque Santa Cruz

ARGENTINA – 4th in South America Group; FIFA World Ranking = 7

Diego Maradona’s side qualified the hard way. After a fantastic start to the campaign Diego Maradona took over the reins of the national team from Alfio Basile a little more than halfway through qualifying. With two matches to go there was a possibility that the Argentinians had thrown away their chances of automatic qualification but a last gasp 2-1 win over Peru was followed by a 1-0 win away at eternal rivals Uruguay. The Albiceleste have perhaps the easiest group out of the heavyweight teams and should progress without too many problems against Greece, Nigeria and South Korea. But have they got what it takes to go all the way?

Coach: Diego Maradona

Star Player: Lionel Messi

URUGUAY – 5th in South America Group (followed by play-off); FIFA World Ranking = 16

Uruguay had to play against Costa Rica (4th in CONCACAF group) in a two-leg play-off after failing to secure an automatic berth during the main qualification stages. Uruguay won the first leg 1-0 away from home and things looked comfortable when they doubled their lead with a goal from Sebastian Abreu in the second leg. However the Costa Ricans equalised on the night to make it 2-1 on aggregate and Uruguay were made to sweat for their place in South Africa. Now in South Africa they face an open group fighting it out with France, Mexico and the host nation for a place in the Round of Sixteen.

Coach: Oscar Washington Tabarez

Star Player: Diego Forlán

Australia National Team

The Socceroos are appearing in their third World Cup finals

AUSTRALIA – 1st in Asia Group One; FIFA World Ranking = 20

Australia breezed through their group finishing five points clear of fellow qualifiers Japan. After losing to a harsh penalty against Italy in the 2006 World Cup the “Socceroos” will be hoping to spring a surprise in South Africa especially with a host of players plying their trade in Europe. Since World Cup qualification was assured Australia have also qualified for the 2011 AFC Asian Cup finishing top of their qualifying group over Kuwait, Oman and Indonesia. In South Africa the Aussies will face tough opposition in Germany, Serbia and Ghana and progress into the knockout stages will be far from easy.

Coach: Pim Verbeek

Star Player: Tim Cahill

JAPAN – 2nd in Asia Group One; FIFA World Ranking = 45

Although they finished five points behind Australia the Japanese team finished the same number of points ahead of Bahrain to take the second automatic qualifying spot from Asia Group One. Since World Cup qualification the Japanese have secured a place in the 2011 AFC Asian Cup topping a group containing Bahrain, Yemen and Hong Kong. Despite regular appearances in the FIFA World Cup since 1998 they have yet to get past the second round of any tournament and aren’t expected to trouble too much in a group containing Netherlands, Denmark and Cameroon.

Coach: Takeshi Okada

Star Player: Shinji Okazaki

SOUTH KOREA – 1st in Asia Group Two; FIFA World Ranking = 47

South Korea kept up their good run of qualifying for the World Cup by remaining unbeaten in Asia Group Two which pitted them against neighbours North Korea and traditional Asian heavyweights Saudi Arabia, Iran and UAE. Since World Cup qualification the South Korean team have not, unlike Australia and Japan, had to play in 2011 AFC Asian Cup qualifiers as they have an automatic berth in the tournament and have, therefore, played many friendly matches instead. Despite regular appearances in this competition South Korea are expected to struggle again in a group containing Argentina, Greece and Nigeria but one feels they could do better than the pundits expect.

Coach: Huh Jung-Moo

Star Player: Park Ji-Sung

NORTH KOREA – 2nd in Asia Group Two; FIFA World Ranking = 105

The North Koreans secured their second ever World Cup finals qualification with a runners-up finish in Asia Group Two. It was a close run thing between themselves and Saudi Arabia who finished on the same number of points. However the North Koreans’ superior goal difference proved to be crucial in the end. Since qualification for South Africa there has been competitive action for North Korea in the form of the 2010 AFC Challenge Cup in which they beat Turkmenistan in the final to qualify for the 2011 AFC Asian Cup. In relation to the 2010 World Cup as much as people would love to see a modern day Pak Doo-Ik, the hero of the 1966 tournament, a repeat of his exploits seem very unlikely in a group containing Brazil, Portugal and Ivory Coast.

Coach: Kim Jong-Hun

Star Player: Hong Yong-Jo

NEW ZEALAND – 1st in Oceania Group (followed by play-off); FIFA World Ranking = 78

Having easily negotiated their way past New Caledonia, Fiji and Vanuatu in Oceania qualifying, the All Whites were made to work hard against a determined Bahrain (3rd in Asia Group One) in a two-leg play-off. A Rory Fallon header just before half time in the second match in Wellington secured both their place in the finals and Fallon’s place as a Kiwi sporting hero. Since then New Zealand have struggled in the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup scoring only one point in three games and finishing bottom of their group. It is expected that they will also struggle in what is to be only their second World Cup finals appearance but could have an element of surprise about them in games against Italy, Paraguay and Slovakia.

Coach: Ricki Herbert

Star Player: Ryan Nelsen

Brazil: State Championship Round-Up (+video)

Posted in South America Football by peterbein on May 3, 2010

Various state championships came to a conclusion in Brazil this weekend and there were no real surprises in terms of the eventual winners. The Carioca Championship already hailed its new champion Botafogo two weeks ago after the team had won both stages of their state competition. This weekend saw more victorious scenes in various state championships which have now all been decided with just a week to go before the new Brasileiro (Brazilian national championship) season gets under way. “Stoppage Time – International Football Blog” reports on the best of the action.

In the Paulista (São Paulo State) Championship little Santo André had surprised many by reaching the final of the tournament. In the regular season, which saw twenty teams play each other once only with the top four going through to knockout semi-finals, Santo André finished ten points behind first placed Santos FC to claim a place in the semi-finals. They negotiated their way past another surprise semi-finalist Grêmio Prudente only on the back of having a better regular season record after both teams had drawn 3-3 on aggregate. Alas, the system which worked in Santo André’s favour in the semi-finals worked against them in the final where they were to be undone by favourites Santos FC.

The regular season winners won the first leg away from home by three goals to two thanks to strikes from André and Wesley (2) but the minnows of Santo André were far from finished. In the second leg the outsiders took the lead after just thirty seconds through a Nunes tap-in but Santos FC restored parity within seven minutes thanks to a well worked goal from Neymar. Santo André regained the lead just twelve minutes later after Alê scored with a header from a corner but Santos FC played their part in a topsy-turvy first-half by equalizing for a second time. Again it was Neymar who was on target for the home side after he slotted home from thirteen yards out to finish off a wonderful skilful move from the home side. Santo André, however, went down fighting in their quest for a maiden Paulista title. One minute before half-time the minnows regained the lead for a third time after Branquinho finished off a nice move down the centre of the pitch to give Santo André a 3-2 lead at the break. Sadly for the away side they just couldn’t take any further opportunities to score in the second half and Santos FC held out to claim their 18th Paulista championship title after the tie was decided by virtue of Santos’s superior regular season record after the two-legged final had finished 5-5 on aggregate. Watch highlights of the second leg here (Santos FC in white strip, Santo André in blue):

In the Campeonato Gaúcho, the state championship of Rio Grande do Sul, it was far from surprising to see perennial rivals Internacional and Grêmio lock horns in the final. These two clubs are the powerful forces in the region and they consolidated their local dominance due to Grêmio winning the first stage of the regular season and Internacional winning the second stage to set up the grand final. In the first leg Grêmio secured a 2-0 victory on away territory in the final quarter of the match. Rodrigo’s bullet header from a corner gave the Tricolor the lead after 67 minutes with Borges sealing the win three minutes from time heading home unmarked at the far post from a free-kick. Watch highlights here (Grêmio in light blue, black and white strip, Internacional in red):

Internacional knew that they had a lot to do to pull off an unlikely championship win but they, at least, were able to frighten their opponents in the second leg having taken the lead after just nine minutes with a well-taken strike from Giuliano from the edge of the Grêmio penalty box. Sadly for Inter they were unable to grab the crucial second goal which would’ve taken the match into extra-time. Grêmio sealed their 36th Gaúcho and now only trail Inter by three titles as the latter won their 39th state title last year. Watch second leg goal here:

The Mineiro Championship (Minas Gerais state) was expected to be the usual contest between the powerhouses of the region Atlético Mineiro and Cruzeiro but this year the latter, despite finishing top of the regular season, were made to suffer in the semi-finals going out to little known Ipatinga losing 3-1 on aggregate. Atlético Mineiro were made heavy favourites to win the title after they had got through their semi-final against Democrata by a 2-1 aggregate scoreline to set up the two-legged final with Cruzeiro’s conquerors. The first leg turned out to be a tough match for Atlético who managed to worm their way through with a 3-2 lead to take into the second leg thanks to Diego Tardelli and a brace from Muriqui. The second leg was a much kinder affair for Atlético as they sealed a record extending 40th local championship thanks to goals from Diego Tardelli and Marques in the last twenty minutes of the game in front of a partisan home crowd. See highlights of the second leg here:

Finally we must mention little known ABC FC who are the record state championship holders in Brazil. They won the Campeonato Potiguar for the 51st time after disposing of Atlético Clube Corintians from Rio Grande do Sul 6-3 in the two-legged final. Check out some of the celebrations here:

Carioca: Botafogo win 19th Rio title

Posted in South America Football by peterbein on April 20, 2010

Botafogo have won the Campeonato Carioca (Rio State Championship) for the 19th time in their history having won the two component parts of the tournament. When any one team wins the first competition, known as the Taça Guanabara, and the second competition, known as the Taça Rio, then a championship play-off is unneccessary. Thankfully for Botafogo their Taça Rio final victory over record champions Flamengo on Sunday added to the Taça Guanabara crown they had already won in February meaning that the club could have a couple of weeks off before resuming action in the oncoming Brasileiro (Brazilian National Championship). “Stoppage Time – International Football Blog” reviews how Botafogo sealed the title:

Taça Guanabara

The Campeonato Carioca sees sixteen teams split into two groups of eight in two distinct tournaments within the competition. In the first stage each team plays the other seven teams from inside their own group before the top two from each group go into the semi-finals. After seven games Group A was topped by Flamengo who had nineteen points, three more than nearest challengers Fluminense. Group B was topped by Vasco da Gama who also led their group with nineteen points with Botafogo just one solitary point behind. The semi-finals saw the top team from each group play the runner-up in the other group. Flamengo, who had won the last three Campeonato Carioca in a row from 2007-09, were to be knocked out by Botafogo after the latter won 2-1. The other semi-final was decided by penalties after a goalless stalemate with Vasco da Gama prevailing from the spot defeating Fluminense 6-5. The final saw Botafogo get revenge on Vasco, the latter had won their group stage encounter by a heavy 6-0 scoreline. Fabio Ferreira and Sebastián Abreu scored the goals to give Botafogo a 2-0 win to claim the first trophy in the competition (see VIDEO):

Taça Rio

In the second half of the Carioca the same two groups of eight teams from the first stage remain intact, only this time each team plays the other eight teams in the opposing group. Despite the change of opposition for each team the groups had a similar finish to them as in the first stage. Group A was again topped by Flamengo who accumulated 22 points in eight games, three ahead of Fluminense. In Group B the roles were reversed from the first stage as Botafogo topped the group with fifteen points, two ahead of Vasco da Gama. In the semi-finals Botafogo defeated Fluminense 3-2 whilst Flamengo defeated arch-rivals Vasco da Gama 2-1 to set up an interesting Taça Rio final. Flamengo had to beat Botafogo in the Taça Rio final in order to set up a grand final against the same opponents to decide the overall champion. Botafogo had other ideas as they wanted to secure the title without the need for a play-off and they got their just rewards albeit with the help of two penalty kicks. Herrara converted the first penalty in the 23rd minute and Sebastián Abreu scored with one of the coolest penalties ever in the 71st minute. Vagner Love’s goal for Flamengo sandwiched the two Botafogo strikes but proved not to be enough. Botafogo had won the two stages and, therefore, took Flamengo’s Carioca title away from them in the process (see Video):

Unlikely heroes end Flamengo’s 17 year title drought

Posted in South America Football by peterbein on December 7, 2009
Dejan Petkovic

Dejan Petkovic celebrates Flamengo's Brasileiro triumph

Brazilian giants Flamengo were, eventually, made to work hard for the Brazilian national championship (Brasileiro) after they toiled to a 2-1 victory over Grêmio at a sell-out Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro. The “Rubro Negro” (Red and Blacks) have now won six Brazilian national championships, thus equalling the number already achieved by outgoing champions São Paulo.

At the start of the day there were four teams with a mathematical chance of winning the title: Flamengo, Internacional, São Paulo and Palmeiras. The fact that Flamengo were playing at home to Internacional’s arch-rivals from the city of Porto Alegre, Grêmio, meant that many fans and pundits had written this game off as a certain three points for “O Mengão”. What wasn’t in the script though was Grêmio taking the lead, Roberson turning home a corner in the 22nd minute to stun the home supporters. Thankfully for the Red and Black masses they didn’t have too long to wait before parity was restored. Centre-half David shot from distance to level it at 1-1 on the half-hour mark and it was to remain at that score at half-time. Elsewhere Internacional’s 2-0 lead at home to already relegated Santo André meant that if scores stayed the same after 90 minutes then Flamengo would lose the title that they craved more than any other. They simply had to win.

The second half started quite slowly but Flamengo soon created chances. They were rewarded in the 70th minute when Dejan Petkovic’s left-sided corner was headed home by another unlikely scorer, centre-half Ronaldo Angelim, and the Flamengo fans started to party in the Maracana. Ten minutes from the end the party was very nearly brought to a halt as Adilson wasted a glorious close range effort for Grêmio. After that though both teams just saw the game out and at the final whistle the party really could begin. Adriano, who returned to Brazil after a roller-coaster period at Internazionale in Italy, finished the season as joint top scorer in the Brasileiro (along with Mineiro’s Diego Tardelli on 19 goals) and, more importantly, as a champion.

In the other matches Internacional beat Santo André 4-1 to secure the runners-up spot from São Paulo, whose three year reign as champions ended with a 4-0 win against Sport Recife. Flamengo, Internacional and São Paulo are joined in the 2010 Copa Libertadores by Cruzeiro, who finished fourth after their 2-1 victory against Santos was coupled with a defeat for nearest challengers Palmeiras (2-1 away to Botafogo). Corinthians, home of Ronaldo and recent signing Roberto Carlos, also have a berth in the Libertadores thanks to their Copa Brasil triumph over Internacional in the early months of the season.

Eight teams qualified for next year’s Copa Sudamericana: Palmeiras, Avaí, Atlético Mineiro, Grêmio, Goias, Barueri, Santos and Vitoria. At the bottom of the table a dramatic finish saw Rio giants Fluminense avoid relegation by one point after their 1-1 draw at Coritiba was enough to send their opponents down into Serie B along with Sport Recife, Náutico and Santo André. Those four clubs will be replaced in the 2010 Brasileiro by Vasco da Gama, Guarani, Ceará and Atletico Goianiense.